Let’s just start here with the question many of you asked (perhaps while blushing): Why is this in the Bible?! Well, let’s see. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to His people, as well as instruction for how to live as His people in such a way as to bear His image and please Him. So we can trust that this book of the Bible is meant to do one, or more, of those things.
Many people through out the ages have been uncomfortable with the inclusion of this book in the Bible. It describes flesh and anatomy. It conveys strong sexual passion, on the part of both genders. It paints sex between a husband and wife as pleasurable, and for intimacy as much as for pro-creation. To some these were dangerous ideas best left ignored. To others they were fine ideas but they just seemed out of place in the Bible.
Consider theses questions a moment: Who created anatomy – the body parts, hormones, and the resulting pleasurable sensations the body feels? Did God deem anything He created in the book of Genesis “not good?” If you look, you’ll see the only the thing God deemed not good was that that man did not have a suitable partner, and then God made Adam one called woman.
Do people often struggle with sex … with understanding its intended purpose, or with handling its power, or with being able to enjoy it? Does the church ever have a hard time knowing how to address this very powerful but very personal aspect of people’s lives?
Considering all these questions, I do not think the inclusion of the Song of Solomon in the Bible was illogical or unnecessary. But I recognize it can make people uncomfortable. I have to admit my own hesitancy to put the subject of passionate sex up for discussion on my blog! But I trust you gals will keep the discussion respectable.
Many Jews and Christians have suggested that the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) is a metaphor or allegory for God’s love for Israel, or for Christ and His bride, the Church. I certainly think that is possible. But I don’t think we can ignore that the most obvious, most primary interpretation of this book is that its about romantic love between a husband and his wife. And I think we could also venture to say that sexual love between a husband and his wife is not just necessary, but important and beautiful to God.
This book - another one that does not mention God by name - is a series of 15 “love songs” by Solomon’s queen as she remembers the events leading up to her marriage, the events of her wedding night, and their life together. The story is told with recurring flashbacks that can make it hard to track chronologically with the story at times.
Another often confusing aspect of this book is that it employs literary devices such as the “chorus” of friends or women sometimes called ‘the daughters of Jerusalem” that interrupt the story or the flashbacks. Their comments serve to make a point or transition between scenes.
The background is that its the 5th century B.C. and Solomon is King. He owns many vineyards around the region. One is in the north by the foothills of the Lebanon mountains. While visiting this vineyard, he meets the Shulammite woman. She is a simple, country girl. She is also beautiful in his eyes and virtuous. She captures Solomon’s heart. He visits her often there and finally asks her to marry him and come to the palace.
As wonderful as a wedding proposal from the king sounds, she has to give it some thought. She was of a lower station in society than him or than the women that would be appropriate for a king – as evidenced by her having to work in the fields. We see her a bit self-conscious about her darkened skin from working in the sun, and her lack of primping. She would also have to leave her family and her rural homeland for the hustle and bustle of the city. And once there, Solomon would often be busy with the affairs of the kingdom as its leader. Plus, she would have duties and a lot of attention on her as his wife. So she has a lot to consider and wisely does so before committing her life to him. Her heart wins out and she accepts his proposal.
The book opens with her getting ready for the wedding procession that will arrive to escort her to the wedding banquet on her wedding night. She is filled with excited anticipation. She is not afraid of consummating this marriage. Any self-consciousness she feels about her tanned skin or her new position as queen, he is able to melt. Passionate details of that night are described and then the first half of the book comes to a close.
The second half of the book shows the joys and struggles of married life. The honeymoon is over, as they say, and sex is not always as anticipated by her as it once was. She refuses his sexual advances one evening and he get up and leaves. She regrets this as she reflects on how much she cares for him and how grand he is, and goes out looking for him. She must search and eventually finds him and they passionately reunite.
She is living at the palace in the city and she misses the country and the mountains of Lebanon. She longs for the beauty of the countryside and for the carefree days they spent there as two young people romantically attracted to one another – not as the royal couple of Israel with the current burdens of their daily life. She asks him to take her there once again. He obliges and they return there on vacation. At the same vineyard where her heart and sexuality were first awakened by him, they share passionate love again.
Their story outlines the path that many couples' sexual relationship follows - all consuming passion at first, followed by a certain comfortable (if no longer ground-shaking) familiarity, followed by the erosion the demands of life can have. What I love about their story is that they seek after and recapture that earlier passion.
In summary, we see her choose wisely and then make a commitment to this man. We see her leave her self-consciousness behind when she is with him. We see her think about, and talk about, what attracts her to him, and what he does that she enjoys. She nurtures her feelings of fondness for him. We see them forgiving and "kissing and making up." We see them getting away together on vacation to fan former flames. We see them meeting each others needs. Basically, we see them being proactive about sustaining their relationship. We don't see them without challenges and bumps in the road, but we do see them overcoming them - together.
There is so much more I could say but I’ll open up for discussion and see what’s on your mind after reading this story.
Oh, and shout out to the "back row" - glad you gals are with us!